Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Retrospecticus: 100 Favorite Songs of the Decade, #60-41

Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Oh Decade with an inventory of my 100 favorite songs of the last ten years. As ever, take these rankings with a grain of salt and the smug knowledge that I don't know anything about music.

[Previously: #100-81; 80-61]

#60. Beyonce -- "Irreplaceable"
I believe Roommate Mark may have quoted me on this issue before, but I'm gonna reiterate: if you did not fall in love with this song after the very first "to the left," I posit that you are a liar and encourage you to take your deceptions and flim-flams elsewhere. I could go farther and say that the same could apply for claims that you weren't singing along by the end of your first listen, but while I could entertain thoughts of truthful dissent there, I'm too busy wondering why a person would want to deny themselves pleasure like that.

#59. Fall Out Boy -- "Dance Dance"
I want to swim around in this bass line. That was the first thought in my head the first time I heard this song, and it remains true today. I'm not sure where the culture has settled on Fall Out Boy (sadly, I think their entire musical career has been dumped into a bin marked "Bronx Mowgli OH SHUT UP"), but as for me, I'd have had a much easier time hating them if they'd have stopped making songs I would obsess over. (Well, that and I kind of like Pete Wentz and all his gay-adjacent posturing don'ttellanyone.) Anyway, "Dance Dance" is the one where their frenetic hitmaking is least encumbered by their navel-gazing, so it gets the Fall Out Boy slot on my list.

#58. Neko Case -- "Hold On, Hold On"
Speaking of songs I could roll around inside. There are vast echo-y caverns inside the 2:47 worth of Neko making the case for her own unknowability, and I want to explore all of them.

#57. Justin Timberlake -- "Cry Me a River"
Okay, this is a hot song, and I'm not really interested in hearing arguments. But in praising JT here, I have to set aside for a moment the fact that this song (and accompanying video) pretty much broke Britney Spears and left the million little pieces that have been flashing their vadge and walking into public restrooms barefoot for the better part of this decade. But seriously, if Justin were singing to me like that, I might voluntarily surrender my better judgment too. An epic-level kiss-off has never sounded so goddamn sexy.

Click below for #s 56-41...

#56. Coldplay -- "Viva La Vida"
The strings! The tympani! The structured French Revolution military jackets! This was the song that made it okay to argue with people who snobbishly dismissed Coldplay again. I don't care if the song was cribbed from Napoleon Bonaparte himself, this is some delicious grandeur right here.

#55. Missy Elliott f/ Ludacris -- "Gossip Folks"
"I heard the bitch got hit by three zebras and a monkey." I'm glad Missy decided to fight back against such hurtful rumors. Seriously, though, normally songs about haters (and/or songs about how people should stop talking about what a giant lez you are) aren't my cuppa tea. But when Missy makes it all sound this playful and sprightly, I'd be one hell of an asshole to try to resist it. It probably stretched the expiration date on the backwards-looping thing from "Work It," but I'll forgive it for yet another stellar Ludacris guest verse.

#54. Rilo Kiley -- "Portions for Foxes"
Jenny Lewis never quiiiite made it for me as the darling she was to many in the middle section of this decade, but I'm not deaf and have retained my capacity for joy, which are the two conditions which must be met to recognize the contagious melodies on this one.

#53. Fiona Apple -- "Get Him Back"
The whole of Extraordinary Machine is an absolute gem, living up to its name on pretty much every track. "Get Him Back" sees Fiona and her piano in unusually high spirits. Rollicking, even. The lyrical turns of phrase ("I think he let me down when he didn't disappoint me,") don't take a back seat for long, though.

#52. N Sync -- "Bye Bye Bye"
I'm not apologizing. You tell me what you were doing in 2000 if not training every muscle in your body to resist making the bunny-hop dance moves from this video while you were at work. Now that Justin Timberlake seems to be undergoing hairstyle regression therapy (Justin, NO!), maybe it's time the culture got its collective shit together and recognized this as the apex of dance-pop era that dominated everything at the turn of the century.

#51. Sufjan Stevens -- "Chicago"
I tried to resist the precious, oft-bewinged Stevens, and sometimes he makes it easy to stay at arm's length. Not so with "Chicago," one of those rare but wonderful moments of pop-cultural serendipity where we all got run over by the big yellow Little Miss Sunshine bus, and while we were dazed on the ground, Sufjan came floating by and laid this one on us.

#50. Augustana -- "Boston"
I've tried to keep this list as universal as possible, without too many of the "you had to be there" songs where I talk about loving such-and-such because it played at the bar the night I met a boy or was used in a really effective montage on TV. This entry is a necessary exception, and if I'm being honest, only half of one. I was already pretty into this pretty little VH1 piano ballad by the time I had decided to move to New York. But from then on, sentiments like "I think I'll start over, where no one knows my name" began to ring uncommonly true, and between its radio dominance and the fact that Augustana played a free show in Buffalo weeks before I left, this song dominated my summer, making it onto every iPod playlist I created for a year, if not longer.

#49. Nelly -- "Hot in Herre"
Dispute it, if you dare. Find me a summer song more apt to get any party started, no matter how resistant the crowd. No, I don't respect Nelly as anything beyond an uncanny hitmaker for a very short window of time, but while that window was open, hot, hot hits started pouring in. Case in point: this self-fulfilling prophecy that, among other things, will get a room of people to exclaim "I think my butt's gettin' big!"

#48. Radiohead -- "Idioteque"
Full disclosure: I am not a Radiohead guy. I tried to do it, and I respect you if you are, but I couldn't make it. So this is the only bit of Thom and Co. you'll find on this list. Why "Idioteque," then, over everything else I may have sampled? Part of it is that ambient swell that rises and falls with Thom Yorke's anxious whine. Part of it is how it becomes inexplicably danceable in the middle part. Part of it is the hypnotic repetition that starts to feel weirdly sultry. You'll note just from my vocabulary here ("inexplicably"! "weirdly"!) that the whole song feels like it shouldn't work; that it should just be noise. And yet...

#47. Joan Osborne -- "Hallelujah in the City"
This is another selection I owe to Roommate Mark's list; this one I hadn't heard at all. I stuck with Joan Osborne longer than most -- her sophomore album, Righteous Love, was an unjustly ignored delight, and since then, I've seen her live a few times, where her bluesy nature and zeal for the audience makes her a hot ticket (and most likely a cheap one at that). But I found myself less plugged into her career later in the decade, after she'd spent that summer touring with the Grateful Dead, so when her Little Wild One met a similar under-the-radar fate, I totally missed it. Which is a shame, because "Hallelujah" might be my favorite song of hers since "St. Theresa." A plucky-acoustic arrangement that lets her sandy vocals tell the story of her love affair with the five boroughs of New York. By the time she hits the bridge to "the churches of Brooklyn, underneath the Chelsea lights," I'm swelled with civic pride...and waiting for the breakdown.

#46. Brandi Carlile -- "The Story"
I've talked about this song on the blog before, but I can't think of too many songs from this decade that nailed the simple allure of screaming your heart out in song form more than Brandi Carlile. This guitar-driven music alternates soft-strumming and power chords, push-pulling you through Brandi's sad tale of love unfulfilled; but it's Brandi's barely-tuned wailing, all cigarettes and tears, that makes it special. We could use another Melissa Etheridge, Brandi. Keep it up.

#45. Aaliyah -- "Try Again"
Ain't no regret like the regret of dying young. It's certainly perverse to talk about going out on top in such a case, so I'll just say that the Aaliyah/Timbaland pairing set a high standard for what we'd lose when her plane crashed in 2001. As cool as black ice, and just as stealthy, Aaliya's arm's-length treatment felt especially distinctive at the dawn of the age of TMI (and no small accomplishment, given how her "Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number" pretty much put her probably-illegal relationship with R. Kelly on blast). "Try Again" is still the smoothest, sleekest mixed signal in pop music. This ain't a yes? This ain't a no? Hell, at least Tim gave us a dope beat to step to.

#44. New Pornographers -- "Challengers"
Echoey, sparse, evocative -- "Challengers" is about as luxurious as it gets for these indie darlings. I can hardly put words to it; I'm already working from a deficit when it comes to describing these songs, but when something with such clearly nonverbal charms comes along, sentiments like "we are the challengers of the unknown" leave me in an appreciative mush.

#43. Hedwig and the Angry Inch -- "Origin of Love"
Yes, another Hedwig entry, which should tell you the impact that movie made on me. This was the moment in the movie that made me sit up straight and realize I wasn't watching some drag show put to celluloid but a legitimate and rousing movie musical. John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask put together a story of ancient myth; of two-sided, complete people, done in and forced to live as yearning halves due to the caprice and jealousy of Zeus and Osiris and the other gods. Sorry, what was your little song about again?

#42. Justin Timberlake -- "Sexyback"
"Just who the fuck is this skinny, pasty, curly-haired, girly-singing, Walt Disney World teeny-bopper to talk about bringing sexy back? And BACK? Back from where? We already have an Enrique Iglesias, sir!" As a fan of popular music -- and cute boys -- it gave me no small amount of satisfaction to watch naysayer after naysayer forced to sign off not only on Justin's hot, hot hit, but also think really, really hard about whether they would kiss him on the mouth if given the opportunity.

#41. Franz Ferdinand -- "Take Me Out"
The fact that this song kind of oversold me on how much of an impact Franz Ferdinand would have on my decade ("Ulysses" went a way towards bringing that back) does not diminish my immediate and enduring affection for this utterly struttable hit.


Roommate Mark said...

Hi Joe! I don't have too much to add to this excellent list, but I just had to drop in and tell you how much I'm enjoying it.

Claire said...

I know someone who was in the "Dance Dance" video (it was filmed in her hometown) so I know have much more fondness for the song than I used to,

Nora said...

Joe Reid, protect your iPod. Should I ever be near it, I will steal it.

Jesse said...

I love many many of your choices (and don't know most of the others), but I have to say: a couple of months ago, I moved to Boston, and I just downloaded that song, and it's so perfect right now for me.

Jesse said...

I mean, I bought the song the other day, before I saw this post.

Joe Reid said...

Mark: Thanks!

Claire: I wish we were still a music video culture. I can honestly say I've never seen the "Dance Dance" video. Will YouTube it.

Nora: No! Mine!

Jesse: It's oddly specific under those circumstances, right?

Rachel said...

Even I, who generally doesn't have any interest in pure pop music, found myself completely obsessed with 'NSync dance of Bye Bye Bye...